Last-minute aborts thwart launch of world’s first 3D-printed rocket

After two failed attempts on Saturday, an aerospace firm in California decided to postpone the launch date for the world’s first 3D printed rocket.

Relativity Space’s Terran 1 booster was slated to lift off at 4 p.m. ET from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, but with 45 seconds to go in the countdown, ground controllers called off the attempt. Roughly an hour earlier, the rocket suffered a separate last-minute abort after the booster’s engines had fired.

It’s not clear what prompted Relativity’s launch controllers to stand down, and the company has not yet announced a new launch date and time.

“Based on initial data review, vehicle is healthy. We will be adding more information about the cause of today’s aborts. Thanks for playing,” the company said in an update on Twitter.

The company’s first liftoff attempt on Wednesday was called off after an issue was detected with the propellant temperature in the rocket’s second stage. Relativity has not said whether Saturday’s aborts were related to the same issue.

Relativity Space’s Terran 1 test flight is a significant step forward. If successful, it will be a landmark for the space tech industry. 3D printing may make it easier to build and produce space capsules and other components, according to the company.

Rockets with 3D-printed parts have flown to space before, but Relativity’s booster is the first to be made almost entirely with 3D printing.

Roughly 85% of the rocket’s mass, including its nine engines, was 3D printed, according to the company. Relativity stated that future versions will be 95% 3D-printed and fully reusable.

Relativity Space was established in 2015 and is located in Long Beach, California. Terran 1 can carry up to 2,756lbs into low-Earth orbit. According to company officials, the 3D-printed boosters are a cost-effective way to launch small commercial satellites in space.